Sunday, July 24, 2011

It Is Brutal Hot Outside Right Now!

Just a Friendly Reminder. . .

It is brutal hot outside right now.

CNN reports that the “heat index values” – how it feels outside – have been running over 125 degrees Fahrenheit in the worst areas. The heat index scale is designed to describe how intense heat feels, which includes factors such as humidity.

In working multiple camps this summer – the athletes have not been prepared for this heat. Most of you have already heard all of this, but now would be a nice time for a friendly reminder. As the athletic trainer for these camps, I am not nearly as active as the athletes. However, each day I have easily taken down a gallon of water and a few cups of some sports drink.

Here are some examples of stories that I have heard over the camps:

- Have you drank enough today? “I drank a lot of water. Two or three cups.”

- When’s the last time you have used the bathroom? “”First thing this morning.”

- Have you eaten anything? “I had a couple bananas.”

These are never good signs when it is six o’clock in the evening and people start cramping up during activity.

These are just a few symptoms for dehydration:

- Headache
- Fatigue
- Nausea
- Dizziness
- Decreases bathroom breaks
- Decreased sweating

If your body is telling you it is thirsty, you are already a little behind when it comes to hydration. Another great way to check your hydration levels is to check the color of your urine. Yes, it sounds pretty nasty, but it is an excellent way to take a quick measure of your hydration levels.

If your urine is pale like lemonade, that’s a sign of proper hydration. If it’s dark like apple sauce, you need more fluids. With proper hydration and a sound diet, most of the time, you will be in good shape.
Use a water bottle that you brought to be your guide through the process. For example – I carry around a half gallon container (yes I get made fun of) throughout the day. It serves as my reference for that days H20 intake. Plus, I would not always bank on water being in the dugout for every game in the summer.

This is information that you should have heard before this point in time. However, each year around this time, the athletes tend to struggle and need a little refresher.

Enjoy what is left of your summer and stay cool.

Chris Ham, MSA, ATC, CES
Athletic Trainer
Vanderbilt University Baseball

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Get out of the way

Are we getting in the way of true baseball performance training? I have read some very interesting commentaries on some exercises lately and have noticed some teams going to a very none aggressive styles of training, which leads to a very detuned baseball player. Why are we going down these roads? I have been in contact with many baseball strength and conditioning coaches that make comments like, most of the program is prehab, and very basic, but the reason is the funny part. As an organization we don’t want to be doing stuff that can potentially hurt a player. I’m sorry, do we need to wrap these men in bubble rap and play on a marshmallow field. I remember one coach that had a player, a very high prospect, which had a bit of a weight issue. As a pitcher he was progressing, but the teams had figured out that he could not get his big butt off the mound to field a ball, and so started bunting every inning. The strength coach involved started working with the player on basic agility drills and for the few weeks the player had lost a few pounds and gained a little quickness. This came to a halt when the field director attended a game and observed the activities. As he put it, we don’t want to risk him spraining an ankle or something, he just needs to do the basic stuff. REALLY, come on, bubble wrap! How about, can we bench, should we bench as baseball players, and again the funny part is the explanation I get every time I hear this comment. If we take the bar to the chest it puts to much strain on the shoulder, and this same coach will take a player put him in an incline and drop the arms and dumbbells past chest level. Do we not understand some basic mechanics? Just because it is a dumbbell doesn’t mean its ok to do anything we want. Come on, can we stop nit picking on little things that might have happened to one player out of a 1000. Lets get to the nuts and bolts, are the players really getting better or are we getting in the way of true progress and record breaking players (with out enhancement). I pose this to every baseball strength coach out there lets make sure we are not in the way!!!!!!

Brian Niswender
Co Founder

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


Just when you think you have seen everything the food and drink industry comes up with one more over the top angle to sell their products---no matter what the health cost to the consumer.

Recently the market has been flooded with new drinks and dessert products laced with melatonin—a drug used to induce sleep. You can find it in numerous products like drinks with names like, Dream Water, I Chill, Relax Zen and Drank. These are the anti-energy drinks that are touted to help you relax and, yes, lead you to slumber land quickly. Other companies are getting a piece of the action by putting melatonin in brownies and desserts called, Lazy Cakes, Mary J’s Brownies, Lulla Pies and Kush Cakes. Sold on-line and in stores like 7-11, Walgreens and university bookstores these harmless looking products are not harmless at all---they can have serious effects on those who are tempted to eat or drink them.

Melatonin is a drug and it should not be used in foods or drinks. Melatonin, prescribed in controlled, therapeutic doses can aid sleep effectively, but putting a drug (which is also a hormone) in food products crosses the line, in my opinion. These companies are getting away with this right now because they have put it in desserts and drinks and classified them as dietary supplements, which are not regulated by the FDA. Melatonin has not been approved by the FDA as a food additive so it is neither guaranteed safe, nor effective, in this usage. Bad idea!

This is especially concerning because these products tempt kids who may not even realize or know what they are buying or how it might affect them. One story I read on the web reported a young athlete having this brownie and being unable to go to practice after eating it because he became so sleepy and lethargic. Other reports indicate small amounts of Dream Water, 2.5 ounces is so powerful it can knock a person out cold and cause a “hangover” effect when doses are higher. This sleep-inducing effect can be dangerous to those getting behind the wheel of a car or operating machinery, as well as for athletes headed for training, practice and games. The best approach is to steer clear of these products and be aware of what they look like on the store shelves---they are not your grandma’s brownies!

Putting drugs in food and drinks that taste good promotes overconsumption, which may lead to overdosing of the product and serious consequences for those who consume them. Reading the label is not the answer since these products deliberately disguise the ingredients and make label reading difficult for the consumer. In my view, it’s not reasonable or logical to ask the consumer to police every food or drink on the market to make sure they aren’t containing random drugs, like melatonin. What ever happened to food safety?

Kim Larson, RD
Sports Nutrition Consultant

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Where Bat Speed Comes From

The Major League All-Star Game is approaching and that means HOME RUN DERBY! This brings up a topic that I discuss often with players and coaches: Where does bat speed come from?

Many players and coaches spend a multitude of their training time emphasizing forearm, wrist, and hand strength and endurance in the belief that “strong hands = greater bat speed”. However, a 2004 study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research concluded that grip strength and bat velocity are not significantly related. So, where does bat swing velocity come from?

If you subscribe to the kinetic chain model of performance, the movement patterns of the baseball swing and the throw are very similar from the ground to the torso. The basic phases of the swing can be divided into the swing, launch, contact, and finish. The stance is highly individualized and emphasizes comfort and confidence for the hitter. The athlete is relaxed and balanced with a slight flex in his knees and elbow and both eyes on the pitcher. The stride and load take place simultaneously creating rhythm and momentum in order to harness potential energy with the weight back, ready to explode and initiate the swing. The back knee “triggers” the swing and the hand patch is down and directly toward the ball. The hips and torso continue to rotate to the contact point while the hands “stay inside the ball” and continue on the downward approach. The contact point is the strongest position of the swing. The body is balanced with the front side firm and closed while the back knee forms an “L”. The hips and shoulders are level with the chest positioned over the hips. From contact the bat head stays level as the hands drive “through the baseball” to get extension. During the finish, balance is the key.

The development of force and motion illustrated in the baseball swing progresses from the ground to the bat (proximal to distal). Through synergistic force production and interactive moments of the legs and hips and abdominal muscles, energy is stored and the Summation of Speeds creates a transmission of the energy through the core to the upper extremity where it is released through the bat. Placing most of the force development in the central core, allows small changes in rotation around the core to effect large changes in the positioning of the arms and hands. This creates higher angular velocities similar to the cracking of a whip and lets the muscles of the forearms, wrists, and hands be more directed toward precision and control rather than power production.

For those who continue to believe that grip and forearm strength is the key. I agree with you but, not for the same reasons. The baseball season is long. During the season, the typical hitter may take an average of 145 swings per day (early cage work, batting practice, pre-at bat swings, and during their in-game at-bat). The bat may weigh anywhere from 32-34 ounces. Over the course of a season, the hands get fatigued. It is important to maintain strength-endurance of the forearm, wrist, and hand muscles in order to prevent and limit fatigue. Particularly, because as discussed, the last link in the chain is the hands. If the precision and control muscles are not doing their job because their “tired”, then the maximum power and force cannot be transmitted through the bat to the ball.

Unfortunately many of the fallacies in baseball training programs continue to be taught to our younger players. It is important to remember that for the purposes of generating bat swing velocity and power, emphasis should be placed on the lower extremity and core rather than an over abundant amount of wasted time strengthening the forearms and grip.

Suggested Reading:

Hughes SS, Lyons BC, Mayo JL. Effect of grip strength and grip strengthening exercises on instantaneous bat velocity of collegiate baseball players. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2004; 18(2): 298-301.

Kibler WB, Press J, Sciascia A. The role of core stability in athletic function. Sports Medicine. 2006; 36(3): 189-198.

David Yeager, ATC, CSCS